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Leader Mohammed Farooq's column November 17

17 November 2023

Time is certainly flying by as the new council leader – this is just my second week in the role and I have spent most of my time so far getting up to speed on the key opportunities and challenges.

From the off, my new cabinet and I were determined to hit the ground running to ensure the council continues its essential business. Thanks to a fantastic team of council officers, I like to think we are meeting the challenge.

This week we had our inaugural cabinet meeting giving us our first chance to review some key decisions.

This included a report from the council’s cycling and walking finish group, which looks at how we will develop active travel opportunities.

As part of this, we will look closely at cycling along Bridge Street, so that we can find a solution that works for cyclists and pedestrians. The task and finish group is looking at the potential for Bridge Street to become a cycling route, but we want to make sure this is properly considered. There will also be a focus on removing obstacles to cyclists like staggered barriers and traffic signals which give priority to motor vehicles over cycles.

We also agreed to award a works contract to Milestone Infrastructure Limited for the construction of a new cycleway along Thorpe Wood and a section of Thorpe Road.

Construction of the cycleway is due to start in April 2024 with the project aimed at improving access into Ferry Meadows, Thorpe Wood business park and the police station. It will also enhance the current walking and cycling links between Longthorpe and Bretton.

Cabinet members were also asked to agree to consult on the future of assets (buildings and land) that the council has earmarked for disposal and to then proceed based on the results of that consultation.

There has been a lot of interest in this review by the media and residents, but I would like to reassure everyone that no decisions have been made and that we want to work with all those groups that may be affected by the closure of a building to find an alternative solution.

This review is about looking at all our land and buildings and retaining and investing in those which it is within our best interests to do so. We will repurpose those which are in a poor state of repair or where occupants could be accommodated elsewhere.

It is also about modernising facilities and realising that some buildings like libraries are not just about books anymore - they are multi-faceted community venues which can be enhanced.

Officers will now begin engaging with those operators and groups which would be affected by the sale of an asset and for each building explain the alternatives that we are proposing.

One of the council’s key challenges is reducing our budget gap in future years to ensure we can continue to operate the key services our residents rely on.

We are predicting a budget gap of £6.2m in 2024/25, but we have a plan to close this gap and I will be able to tell you more over the next few weeks.

The gap has been caused by a rising need for temporary accommodation, an increase in the number and complexity of placements within Children’s Services, increasing energy costs and high rates of inflation. These are issues that are impacting every local authority – they are not unique to Peterborough.

We will be taking invaluable feedback from our recent budget simulator, which was completed by 342 people, and using this in the development of proposals.

We are fully aware of the scale of this task and will not shy away from it. There may be difficult decisions ahead, but we are fully committed to working with our officers and all members to make progress.

Finally, it’s scary to think that Christmas is now just over one month away, what did I say earlier about time flying by?!

We’ve been busily finalising plans for next week’s Christmas lights switch-on in Cathedral Square which is shaping up to be a fun-filled event for all the family.

It all takes place on Friday 24 November from 5pm, with the lights being turned on by former Eastenders star Cheryl Fergison, who is playing Good Witch Glinda in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz pantomime at The Cresset this Christmas.

Also taking to the stage will be stars from the Key Theatre panto Aladdin, Posh team mascots, skaters from Peterborough Phantoms, and of course Father Christmas himself.

The event will be hosted by Kev Lawrence, breakfast presenter at PCRfm, with the switch-on scheduled to take place at 7pm.

This will be my first Christmas lights switch-on as leader, and I am really looking forward to seeing the people of Peterborough come together for an excellent night of entertainment.

Finally, on a related note, after the big switch-on attention will turn to the giant ice rink being assembled in Cathedral Square, which will open on 1 December.

For information and tickets go to